from a work in progress by joshua weiss, published here in serial format:
0-in which we discover the myth and reality of the baku
There is a tale in old Shinto myth that survives to this day and spans many belief systems. The tale is of the mysterious creatures known only as the baku-the eaters of dreams. It is said that one can invoke the baku in one of two ways. First, before one falls asleep in order to ward off bad dreams as a sort of preemptive strike. Second, one can invoke the baku after one has had a particularly bad dream (which is to say a dream filled with bad omens for the future), at which point the baku will devour the dream before it can be realized.
The myth of the baku belies a hidden truth-that dreams are vital for existence. Without them, humanity becomes static-it withers and ceases to be. But the realm of dreams ought to be tread on lightly-there is heaven and hell at every turn.
1-in which we meet the child of a mountain, he dreams, and a fox's intuition proves too little-too late
On a high lonely mountain on a long forgotten island of Japan, a cherry tree was in full bloom. The blossoms were rich and beautiful, and as the sun rose from the eastern sea, a small fox the color of light was tending to the garden. A long time before, the fox had fallen in love with the lonely monk who kept the only temple on the island, and he with her. Their love began one night when, in contest with a badger to see who could convince the monk to vacate the temple first (thereby claiming the temple as the victor's new place of residence), the fox took the form of a beautiful geisha and collapsed on the threshold of the temple. The monk was undoubtedly concerned-but he would not be fooled by the girl with the fox's eyes. But as he touched her face he could not deny that he felt the black demon of lust in his breast, and the fox could not deny she felt the same. Thus it began.
Later, after the badger had been exiled from the island after stealing the form of a demon (thereby making said demon crimson with rage-or at least she would have been crimson, had she had a form at all anymore), the fox and the monk consummated their passion, and slowly began to fall in love with each other.
Many years passed, and the two lived in peaceful harmony. The fox came into the temple to stay with the monk, and it was given to her the task of tending to the garden each morning as the sun goddess rose from her cave in the east to begin her journey.
This dawn was like any other-the only exception in that the fox was given to notice with particular pride how beautiful the cherry tree looked glinting in the rose morning with a fresh sprinkling of dew. It was nearing winter in the Chinese Year of the Dragon, and it would not be long now before the blossoms began to fall, and the time of the greatest Yin would arrive. But today everything passed as usual. At the appointed time, the fox left her garden to join her love in their morning meditation-after which she returned to her work. The monk cleaned the temple, as was his ritual, and they both completed their work in just enough time for the evening meal. The meal was simple-a few vegetables from the garden-as it was every night, but it was enough. The monk and the fox remained silent with each other-a silence that comes only with the knowledge of the ultimate rightness of the love shared-and after their evening meditation, they retired to their rest in preparation for the new day.
Several hours later, the monk awoke from a terrible dream. In it, the badger returned to the island after having won his battle with the demon for control of her form. The badger was determined to destroy the temple and kill the beautiful fox in his vengeance. He succeeded in this, and it was at that moment that the monk awoke, cold and drenched in perspiration. Knowing clearly of the evil this dream prophesied, the monk invoked the dream-devourers.
-Baku kurae! Baku kurae! Baku kurae!
-No! screamed the fox, who had waken only moments earlier from a different, but equally premonitory dream.
-What is it, my love? asked the monk, genuinely concerned.
-Nothing. What is done is done. It is too late now. Come to me.
And the monk and the fox held each other tightly in the pale light of the full moon, not entirely certain that the dawn would ever come.
On the other side of the world, in a smallish flat in London's East End, a boy called Sebastian fell into a deep sleep.
Outside the temple, the sweetest and most beautiful cherry blossom broke free and tumbled swiftly and silently toward the earth.
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